We live in a time when women are still fighting for the right to be treated with the same respect and dignity as men; to have their talents, abilities, and strengths recognised as having equal value as those of their male counterparts; to have their voices heard and listened to. Although our culture talks a lot about ‘equality’, the basic consideration of women as being equal to men is still a work in progress.
The foundation for the concept of equality among men and women has been available in the Bible for many years. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he argues that Jesus has given his followers a new identity that supersedes the old way of measuring each other. This identity enables them to live freely in the Kingdom of God, their transformed lives demonstrating the new thing that God is doing in the world. He says:
Galatians 3:26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
This doesn’t mean that God has done away with gender differences. God still affirms the beauty of His creation of male and female. But it does mean that in Christ Jesus, the ways humans have used gender differences (and other indicators) to determine someone’s worth, have been done away with. In God’s Kingdom, all people have access through Jesus to God’s presence and His giftings.
This echoes the promise made by the prophet Joel, and confirmed by Peter in his speech on the day of Pentecost:
Acts 2:18 “In those days I will pour out my Spirit, even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.”
But in many corners of the church, women are still regarded as having no access to positions of teaching and leading. Those who argue for this state of affairs will quote the Bible in their defence. In particular, they select specific portions of Paul’s letters to make their case.
One such portion is in Paul’s first letter to Timothy:
1 Timothy 2:11 Women should learn quietly and submissively. 12 I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. 13 For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.
This passage is used to justify restricting women from ever teaching or leading men. On first glance at this passage, they may be justified. But on closer inspection, we find a different story.
The church in Ephesus that Timothy pastored was in danger due to a false teaching that was infiltrating the church. The teaching stated that Eve had been created first, was superior to Adam, and that women were to return to Eve’s Edenic state of perfection through methods such as refusing marriage (even if they were already married), avoiding childbirth, and restricting the foods they ate. This false teaching was being spread from house to house by women who were new to the Christian faith and had not had the opportunity to be educated. Paul’s instructions to Timothy included:
This passage is not a universal ban on women leading and teaching men. It’s a specific command to a particular church at a particular time over a particular issue. The core lesson we can take from it is not that women can’t teach or lead men, but that false teaching should be stopped dead in its tracks for the sake of the church.
Of course, the whole New Testament is full of references to women ministers co-labouring with men and leading in their own right:
Paul himself commends many women in their roles as leaders in the church. In fact, he spends a whole chapter of his letter to the Romans greeting his co-labourers in the gospel. A third of those he mentions are women. We must approach the Bible without fear, exegete passages carefully, and consider the context of Paul’s wider ministry and writing when we come across passages that appear to ‘restrict’ women.
It is not liberal, feminist, cultural movements that has set women free. It is Jesus, the Saviour, who gave His life for men and women, and made it possible for us to live out God’s new way of doing things, right here and now. As we do, we see a glimpse of the promise of the Kingdom yet to come, where all wrongs will be put right, and all oppression and injustice will cease.
At Falkirk Vineyard, we believe in the Biblical truth that life in the Kingdom of God, and participation within God’s church family is available to all who come by faith in Jesus. It is His transforming power at work in us which frees us from sin and qualifies us to serve one another. we believe that all roles in the church are open to men and women based on spiritual gifting and Godly character. Women and men are different but equal, and their gifting may be expressed differently, but equally as effectively. This is why, in all areas of leadership in our church, in the Scottish Vineyard Region, and in the National Vineyard movement, you will find women in positions of leadership, authority, and responsibility.
Associate Pastor, Falkirk Vineyard Church
Thoughts, experiences, and encouragement from the ladies of Falkirk Vineyard.